Monday, December 12, 2005

Santa Claus and the Christmas Myth

When I was about 13-years-old, I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t real. Imagine my surprise when about 3 years ago, I realized that he was.

Upon becoming a teenager, I first became conscious that things which have basis solely in tradition were foolish and not worth believing in or preserving. Mythological stories like a man named Santa Claus who leaves presents for children every Christmas Eve were not “real” because my definition of reality was dependent only upon things that have physical matter. I trust my mental prowess must have common to most young philosophers my age. Because we realized the impossibility of one man to fly around the world in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny reindeer (and Rudolph on the foggy nights), we philosophers concluded that Santa Claus or any other fantastic idea of Christmas magic or myths is not a tradition worth believing in.

I grant that the evidence accumulated against Santa Claus’ existence cannot be ignored. There are confirmed accounts of houses that lack presents on Christmas morning (not even a lump of coal). There are eyewitness reports that the job of Mr. Claus has been filled by some well-meaning parents who don’t even bother wearing a red suit or cap whilst practicing their deception. Most parents will probably admit that Santa not only leaves presents under the tree, but also sales receipts in their wallets. But I believe it is folly to conclude that Santa Claus does not exist based upon the fact that he is not acknowledged in some homes.

In 1897, a little girl named Virginia wrote to the editor of the New York Sun asking if it was reasonable to believe in Santa Claus when all her friends told her it was foolish to do so. The editor responded by writing that indeed it was not only tolerable to believe in Santa Claus but encouraged her to do so. He explained that her friends had been “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” The same words could have easily come out of the mouth of C. S. Lewis, who was fond of mythology even before he ever came to faith in Christ or wrote his Narnia books. But as a young man, Lewis had once renounced any notions of faith or mythology in favor of atheism, skepticism, and materialism. Many years later, in Surprised by Joy, he reflected upon this time of his life and remarked: “Nearly all that I loved [poetry, beauty, mythology] I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I wanted to be real, I thought grim and meaningless.”

C. S. Lewis the atheist wanted to believe in myth and meaning, but he couldn’t because he thought that reality must be defined in terms of the physical or material alone. Myth is imaginary and is therefore not “real” as he then understood it. Lewis sought for meaning and beauty, but his struggle was only resolved when he was persuaded that Christianity was the one true myth. Indeed, it was “the true myth to which all the others were pointing,” and it alone “was a faith grounded in history.”

As I read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and then watched the new movie, I was struck by the scene where the professor rebukes the skepticism of the older children who disbelieve their little sister’s claim that she visited Narnia. Alas, Peter and Susan had unconsciously bought into the secular ideas of skepticism which the editor of The New York Sun warned young Virginia about. I think most children fall prey to this skepticism around the teenage years due to the secular rationalism that says that whatever forces or beings that cannot be seen must not be real or worthy of admiration. I have many brothers and sisters in Christ who do not believe in the myth of St. Nicholas; some even accuse it of being the root of the greed and materialism that might be considered a 21st century version of Turkish delight. Some say that Santa Claus, Christmas lights, and Christmas presents distract from Jesus’ glory, and I doubt if anything will alter their thinking.

But the myth of Christmas tradition and the true meaning behind Christmas need not be in opposition to each other. I recognize that difference between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the myth of St. Nicholas. The gospel of the Christian faith has its basis in fact (making it the true myth), while the contemporary myth of Santa Claus has its basis primarily in tradition. The myth of Christmas can be traced to the charity of a real bishop who gave money to young women to aid them in marriage. His example reminds us of God the Father’s gracious gift of His invaluable Son to us when we did not deserve Him. As we celebrate the spirit of Christmas by continuing the example of St. Nicholas, we remember that any gifts we receive are but reflections of the Greatest Gift we mercifully received from the Great Giver. Christmas presents given to us in the name of Santa Claus are valuable only so long as they help us in our gratitude to the Father and our joy in the Son. If they become the chief end of the holiday, then the Christmas myth becomes meaningless and idolatrous. But when the Christmas myth points us to the True Myth, then we can rejoice in the truth while being appreciative of the traditions that supplement but never supersede it.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Body of Christ is the Hope for Homosexuals

What would you do if a friend told you they struggled with homosexuality? Would you recoil in disgust? Would you look for an opportunity to change the subject and then speak of it no more? Would you leave your friend to resolve the matter on their own, making every effort to distance yourself from such an awkward relationship?

That's what I always figured I'd do if that happened to me. I grew up in a small town populated largely by good ol' boys and not so good ol' boys. Everybody knew everybody and their brother's business, and you could hardly lie about where you went on Friday night because somebody would always recognize you within a 30-mile radius. Even though it was a small town, we had our various cliques: the jocks, cheerleaders, the Goths, the Trekies, and the drugies (to name a few). There were also those who didn't really fit into any one mold for whatever reason. Often it was because their personalities and mannerisms were a bit queer (no pun intended). These type people were usually avoided and often became the butt of coarse minded jokes.

The underlying assumption was that those who couldn't fit in with a crowd should be left to fend for themselves. Silent, alone, and unloved. Although I wasn't one of the popular crowd by any stretch of the imagination, I was generally respected for morality and kindness. That kindness had limits, however, and I was reluctant to reach out to those whom others had ignored. I didn't want to get my holy hands dirty with downtrodden sinners on the side of the road.

Who would have thought that my Pharisitical outlook would be challenged by attending Union University, the private Southern Baptist college for "rich, white kids." Early on, I developed an acquaintance with a Christian peer. I didn't have much driving experience in those days, so he was always happy to give me rides to and fro, eventually inviting me to become involved in Sunday night small group meetings with a local church. He was always outgoing, and seemed to have no shortage of friends. He was, in my opinion, the model of the "happy Christian." There was just one problem I'd didn't know about: he had lived a gay lifestyle.

This came to my attention one night at our church small group meetings. At the end of the Bible study, he confessed his sin to all gathered together. He later confessed it publicly before the Church, as a testament to his ongoing resolution to flee from sin and trust in the power of Christ's righteous power. I had never prepared myself for how to respond, but that night the Holy Spirit revealed to me that God had bound my heart to do nothing else but respond in godly love. I promised him my friendship, specifically to help keep him accountable to his confession of repentance. Reflecting back on that night, I realize how much God had changed my heart since high school. My friend's confession revealed to me that the addiction of sin isn't just limited to the social outcasts who don't seem to fit in, but even to those whom we call brothers in the name of Christ.

I was really impressed with how people in the church responded to this situation, but I was even more surprised with the effect it had on the way I treated people who were "different" than myself. Before graduation, I learned that there are faithful Christians who struggle with this particular sin. It's easy for evangelicals to say homosexuality is a choice, but that's a gross oversimplification. Acting upon homosexual attraction is a sin, but homosexual attractions themselves may be simply a manifestation of our depravity. Lust is a temptation that will rear its head in many different forms. The suppression of certain impulses may only kindle the fire of other forms of lust. The human heart is deceitful above all things, of course.

The only hope for the sinner is a transformative relationship with Christ, but the Spirit will not work to its fullest ability in the sinner's life without the involvement of Christian brothers and sisters. That's why I was encouraged to read this recent article on Baptist Press ( It makes a powerful point when it says, "testimonies of drug abuse or even sins of a heterosexual nature usually elicit sympathy and sometimes smiles of understanding. 'I’ll tell you, it’s not this way when you talk about homosexuality'." It is imperative that the Church wake up to the extent of depravity in our own hearts, for all the pop culture and political controversies are just symptoms of that root problem. And while I have great admiration for those Christian organizations that are specifically committed to homosexual outreach and ministry, there is really no substitute for a local church where sinners can come together to hear the Word of the Lord in all its convicting glory and share their praises and prayer requests. The believer who struggles with homosexual sin needs a community of faith to maintain accountability and receive encouragement from his brothers and sisters. And those who deceive themselves as being more holy than they are will surely be convicted by the honesty of their struggling brother.

Monday, October 31, 2005

If I one day become a highly regarded commentator on faith and culture, then this site will become a daily installment of quality reflections and calls for activism. But today is not that day. My xanga shall still continue to be as eclectic as ever, so if you want to check up on me, then go to:

Or my more obscure online residence:

Adam Winters